Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Kindness I've Discovered
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
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In the end all that matters is kindness. Were you kind while you had the chance to be so? If your life is fucked, ask yourself, when was the last time you were kind to anyone? Let that answer guide you.
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In the story of the Fisher King, Parzival, a knight of the Round Table, has stumbled onto the Grail Castle, wherein lies the wounded Fisher King. The wound is grievous, emasculating and the kingdom surrounding the castle is barren because of it. Parzival's first impulse is to rush to the king's side and ask, "What ails thee?" But he does not. He overrides his impulse to kindness with the intellect that tells him a knight doesn't blubber. In so choosing, the castle disappears, never to be found again. It is then he realizes he had the Grail within in reach and lost it for a lack of kindness.
I love that story.
It is easy, so very easy to only see your own pain, your own suffering, your own needs and be blind, indifferent or afraid of what others need or are experiencing. Multiply that by a factor of ten if you are fucked. You hurt so much, you focus so intently on the problem in your hand that you fail to see that others are fighting tougher battles. You want and you need and those needs are not met and so you wall off your life in an attempt to keep your eye on the prize: an end to your own suffering. You can build empires this way. You die anyway.
There are thresholds, passages you'll move through as you live, as you unfuck your life. It is different for each of us, the path we take, the fears we leave behind in order to take another step. It can be agonizing to let go of the ways in which we have lived and thought about our lives. So much pride is vested in each decision that it becomes difficult to change, to grow, to become our very selves. The last threshold that you must step through before you can unfuck your life is kindness. You may think yourself kind and decent, and maybe you are, now and then, when it is easy, when it is reciprocated and acknowledged. I'm talking about a different sort of kindness, one that is never doubted, or looking for reward, but simply is - at all times: present, willing, generous, selfless.
The pain here is a spiritual pain, a breaking through of forms, shattering them, learning to walk without them. The end to dichotomies, duality - there is only kindness.
Parzival, as you know, wanders for seven years trying to re-find the Grail Castle. But it cannot be done, such is the nature of the quest. He has lost his chance. He continues on knowing it is so, but believing it might still be done. One day he finds himself in the hall of the Fisher King, the wound still fresh, the land still barren. Parzival is battered by his search: pummeled, weary, sore. When he sees the king in such agony he rushes to his side and asks,"What ails thee?" And so the Grail is found.
Do you not know what the Grail is?
It is kindness, above all. It is kindness. It is forgetting about yourself and seeing what others need. It is letting one who has hurt you have your love nonetheless. It is understanding that all whom you meet are stumbling on their paths as well. It is knowing, knowing, knowing in the marrow of your soul that this threshold, this agonizing moment before you step through is that last of your fucked life.
And so you take that step.
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The wounds of others can distort them into hateful, unkind forms and they can cause tremendous harm. Kindness means little to them. The road they are on is a long one. Bless them and move on. Be kind to yourself by moving on. They will have to wander like Parzival until they see what you and Isaac know: kindness is everything in life.
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